Germany’s Nico Rosberg romped to his fifth win in a row for Mercedes last night and ended Formula One champion team mate Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of a third successive Bahrain Grand Prix victory.
In a race that at times resembled a demolition derby, with bits of bodywork flying as cars collided, Rosberg seized the lead from the start and enjoyed an easy evening under the floodlights.
“It’s been an awesome weekend. The key was really at the start, I made a great getaway and from then on I was trying to control the pace,” said Rosberg of his first win at the desert track where he made his F1 debut a decade ago.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, whose team mate Sebastian Vettel failed to start after his car’s engine let out a plume of smoke on the formation lap, finished 10.2 seconds behind to repeat last year’s second place.
Hamilton, a distant third and never in a position to challenge for the lead, made a slow start from pole position and tangled with the Williams of Valtteri Bottas at the first corner as the Finn tried to go past on the inside.
That left him having to battle back from seventh place at the end of lap two with a damaged car, while stewards gave Bottas a drive-through penalty for causing the collision.
Hamilton had also started on pole in Australia two weeks earlier, when both Mercedes drivers were jumped by the Ferraris before eventually finishing one-two.
“Two separate incidents, both equally painful - perhaps today more painful,” said Hamilton.
“We still managed to get the car up there and get some points,” added the Briton. “So, again, damage limitation, congratulations to Nico, an easy race for him I would assume but I’m glad it wasn’t more points.”
Rosberg stretched his lead over Hamilton at the top of the standings to 17 points after two races.
The win was the 16th of the German’s career, lifting him level in the all-time lists with British great Stirling Moss, and the eighth in a row for champions Mercedes.
All but the top six cars were lapped, with 17 finishers.
Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fourth for the second race running, with Frenchman Romain Grosjean performing more heroics for the new US-owned Haas team by finishing fifth after sixth in Australia.
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen finished sixth for Toro Rosso, with Russian Daniil Kvyat seventh for sister team Red Bull and Felipe Massa eighth for Williams ahead of Bottas.
Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne, standing in for Fernando Alonso at McLaren after the Spaniard was ruled out on medical grounds after his big crash in Melbourne, scored on his debut with 10th place.
The points were McLaren’s first of the season and capped a great weekend for the reigning GP2 champion, who also out-qualified 2009 world champion team mate Jenson Button. The Briton retired on lap seven.
With Vettel and Alonso not starting, that left three of the sport’s five active world champions watching from the sidelines.
Manor rookie Rio Haryanto became the first Indonesian to finish a Formula One race, in 17th and last place.